An RPS report on the Government’s assessment of the second runway at Gatwick as an alternative to the third runway at Heathrow has been prominent in UK news over the last two weeks.
The Government’s assessment in 2017 was that the option of a new runway at Gatwick shouldn’t be chosen because extra traffic on the M25 would threaten rare orchids around 15 miles from the airport; even though the Heathrow scheme had a number of potentially significant impacts on habitats designated as European Sites.
RPS was appointed by Gatwick to review the Government’s assessment. Our subsequent report showed no evidence the orchids in question were present in the area that may be affected. The grassland in the survey area was found unlikely to support orchid growth of that nature, and with no plans to change the management of this area in the foreseeable future, there would not be significant relevant impacts
Nevertheless, the Heathrow scheme was recommended by the Government and approved by MPs in June 2018. Now, amidst a judicial review of the resulting National Policy Statement, the significance of the RPS report to the Government’s decision-making process featured heavily; with the report’s findings having been introduced to the argument by London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s team.
With regards to the missing orchids, the Sunday Times (31 March) quickly picked up on the possibility that rabbits, or four cows with access to the area, may have eaten them. This was also debated at some length by Ian Hislop and David Dimbleby during the picture round of the satirical UK current affairs quiz show 'Have I Got News for You' (BBC, 5 April). The judicial review continues….